Review: Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS shines

Latest Ubuntu Server lays the foundation for higher speeds and greater density with Snap packages, LXD containers, and ZFS storage

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At a Glance
  • Canonical Ltd. Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) represents the first release from Canonical to deliver long-term support since 2011 (version 14). While the latest improvements may not be entirely revolutionary, Ubuntu 16.04 rounds up exciting features to fortify the server base and enhance the desktop experience. InfoWorld reviewed the new desktop release in April. In this review, I’ll focus on the server.

One of the key updates in this release comes by way of the new Snap package archive. Canonical’s LTS repositories are notoriously outpaced by modern software release cycles. It’s the classic trade-off for stability: Canonical moves slowly to adopt new versions of packages in order to vet applications and ensure they don’t muck up your system. Unfortunately, that induces a lag time that leaves users waiting as the latest and greatest software passes them by.

Snap packages -- born from Ubuntu’s mobile development efforts -- offer a self-contained environment that installs code and all of its dependencies and security into sandboxed directories. Snaps run alongside your other apps and traditional Deb packages without clobbering each other or the Canonical codebase. Developers can push (and recall) updates freely and users get to break out cutting-edge releases without concern for their system stability. Everybody’s happy … or they will be, as more developers begin releasing their products in Snap package format.

Deeper under the hood, Ubuntu 16.04 brings the OS back in sync with long-term kernel support (such as Linux 14.4 LTS), offers system-level containers and VM-like container management with LXD, and introduces native kernel support for the ZFS storage system in 64-bit servers.

Further, Canonical continues to expand the breadth of its impressive platform reach. With newly added IBM LinuxONE and IBM z Systems support, Ubuntu support now stretches from mobile devices to mainframes. 

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